When her husband of 20 years dies, Arvilla (Jessica Lange) agrees to her stepdaughter (Christina Baranski)'s request to bring his ashes to Palm Springs for a family burial. Arvilla and best friends Margene (Kathy Bates) and Carol (Joan Allen) take a road trip from Pocatello, Idaho to Santa Barbara - with detours to places like Lake Bryce and Las Vegas - in her late husband's beloved '66 Bonneville convertible.
Review by Louise Keller:
While the premise of this roadtrip come buddy movie may be based on loss, the journey we take is a vibrant one, filled with an infectious zest for living. Anchored by appealing performances from its three thespian stars, we are given a taste for life at the crossroads when the road is long and there are many turns from which to choose. This is the same road Thelma and Louise travelled, and although the story is completely different, there are some resonances.
When Lange's Arvilla walks through the front door after her husband's cremation, she feels totally alone. Lange inhabits Arvilla with soulful enthusiasm as she recruits her best friends, the recently widowed Margene (Kathy Bates) and conservative Morman housewife Carol (Joan Allen), who spends most of her time proving she is right. It is unusual to see Christine Baranski playing such a cold and heartless a role as calculating stepdaughter Francine Holden Packard (the double barrel surname seems to accentuate her pretentiousness); we are more used to seeing her in somewhat lighter roles such as those in Mamma Mia or The Bird Cage.
When Arvilla, Margene and Carol set off in the prized, red 66 Bonneville convertible, it is clear from the start that their trip to the funeral in Santa Barbara will be far from a straight line. They meet a hitchhiker on the Salt Flats (while having a flat of their own), giggle like schoolgirls on the massage bed in Idaho and meet a smiling truckie (Tom Skerritt) who provides a Las Vegas romance. Of course the women's friendship is put to the test along the way and some of the funniest scenes are at the Riviera Hotel in Vegas, when the non-drinking, non-gambling Carol gets a taste of everything she is missing in one swoop when a cynical prostitute gives her a lucky dollar. What Bonneville does best of all is portray a warm and real sense of friendship between the women as they share their turmoils and adventures together. The climax may fall a little flat, but the film as a whole has a gentle feel about it, and spending time in the company of the three actresses in their prime, a pleasure.
Published April 16, 2009
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BONNEVILLE: DVD (PG)
CAST: Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates, Joan Allen, Tom Skerritt, Christine Baranski, Victor Rasuk, Tom Amandes, Tom Wopat
PRODUCER: John Kilker, Robert May,
DIRECTOR: Christopher N. Rowley
SCRIPT: Daniel D. Davis
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jeffrey L. Kimball
EDITOR: Anita Brandt-Burgoyne, Lisa Fruchtman
MUSIC: Jeff Cardoni
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Christopher R. DeMuri
RUNNING TIME: 93 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Icon
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 28, 2008
PRESENTATION: 16 x 9
SPECIAL FEATURES: none
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Icon
DVD RELEASE: April 10, 2009
RIVERSIDE SNEAK PEEK PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 4 consecutive Tuesdays - March 10, 17, 24, 31, 2015 - at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.